January 28, 2022 | OPINION | By Zoraiz Zafar
For most fellow members of our electorate, the first thought that comes to mind when hearing about the Libertarian Party is, quite unsurprisingly, legalized recreational marijuana. However, the fact of the matter is that the Libertarian movement extends far beyond any one specific measure or policy. And in the wake of the unprecedented COVID-19 restrictions that the world has seen in the past two years, the Libertarian movement is gaining significant traction.
Founded in 1971 in Colorado Springs at the height of the Vietnam War, the Libertarian Party sought to restore the values of foreign non-interventionism and economic liberalism. Over the years, the Libertarian Party’s social positions that were once considered radical have become more and more popular. For instance, leading Libertarians point out that their party had supported gay marriage since 1972, which is several decades before this particular position was adopted by the mainstream liberal party, the Democratic Party.
On the topic of criminal justice, Libertarians propose a drastic reduction in the size of the police force and call for the complete repeal of capital punishment. The party extends its platform to advocate for the decriminalization of all victimless crimes, including the use of drugs and gambling.
On the fiscal front, the Libertarian platform serves as a sweeping extension of the Republican Party’s economic policies. Libertarians support the abolishment of all elements of the social safety net, call for lower taxes, and appeal for the dissolution of the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, the slogan “Taxation Is Theft” has been brandished by several leading Libertarians on social media and elsewhere.
There are, however, issues on which the Libertarian Party fails to adopt a concrete position. The party’s official stance on abortion, for instance, has been a topic of vigorous debate within the party. Furthermore, the party has often found it hard to draw the line between ideological beliefs and practical policy positions. In 2021, the New Hampshire chapter of the Libertarian Party faced heavy criticism for advocating for the abolishment of child labor laws.
As the COVID-19 pandemic raged through the world, most leaders chose to react by enforcing stay-at-home orders and comprehensive lockdowns. In many countries, this had disastrous economic consequences for the local population, all of which contributed to the worst global recession since the Second World War. In the U.S., these restrictions were viewed as necessary by the majority of the public at that time. However, the popularity of such restrictions has since declined drastically, to the extent that even swing voters are heavily opposed to any kind of restrictions.
Leading up to the 2022 and 2024 elections, the Libertarian Party has the potential to act as the kingmaker. Though it will most likely not be able to compete fully with the Democratic and Republican juggernauts, it can give them a run for their money. Even if Libertarian candidates can siphon off a few percent of the electorate, they could affect the results in several key swing states where the winner is almost always decided by a razor-thin margin. In the wake of this political reality, incumbent mainstream politicians must act accordingly. The Libertarian Party is knocking on the doors of Americans disillusioned with the two-party system and, this time, it can offer a lot more than just legal weed.